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Collage by J. Tim Raymond at Starlight Gallery

Magazine Ladies

The leisure activity of snipping and pasting decorative papers was popularized by well-bred ladies of the Victorian era. This art of collage grew up in the early 20th century as it was embraced by modern artists who made meaning from the heap of post-industrial print media.

The late 1900s was a time of deconstruction and appropriation as meaning and originality in art lost weight. The possibility for authentic expression remains questionable as artistic imagination in the 21st century has become a territory for hunting and gathering—borrowing and repurposing.

The filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard claimed: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”

J. Tim Raymond is best known for his intimate small- and medium-scale semi-abstract land and seascapes, as well as pen and ink sketches of actors on various Buffalo stages. Raymond’s enthusiasm for thrift store exploration led him to collect disowned photo murals of generic nature scenes that he began altering with imagery clipped and curated from stacks of vintage and contemporary magazines.

His earlier paintings are lonely spacious realms of neutral tones and unpeopled places. Magazine Ladies sparkles with inky jewel-tones and burst with lively female forms and all manner of the 10,000 things (per Lao Tzu) torn from the printed page. According to the artist statement, these 16 new works relate to the “expedient bargaining with the future of the human race.”

Raymond’s intention is reflected in dreamlike vistas full of curious elements. Hands grasp tree trunks, towels drape over branches. Beaches are awash with chaotic debris. Sirens Wailing shows hunters with rifles as disembodied faces cry out—a timely comment on gun culture. Lake of Sorrows features a pair of snake eyes dice floating on glassy water. The artist’s visual contemplations conjure questions without answers—like Zen koans. Poetic juxtapositions suggest a sum far greater than its parts—the phenomenal world of the artist’s altered pictures seems to be constantly shifting.

A childhood activity may have been the seed for Raymond’s current collage style. His father’s military career required frequent family relocation to new destinations. During long car trips, he entertained himself in the backseat with magazine pictures of automobiles that he meticulously altered to appear like the state police vehicles that he observed out the window glass.

The appeal of handmade human-scale work is found here. Artful handling of humble materials has its own grace and a natural authentic presence. As slick large-scale digital prints have become the standard media of contemporary art, analog collage may be discounted as the facile terrain of craft projects, teenage bedroom walls, and scrapbook hobbyists. This myth fails to recognize the power of play involved in mining print media artifacts as treasures for the soul to ponder and reinvent. Raymond succeeds at directing his paper characters into theatrical scenes worthy of a second and third look.

Magazine Ladies is up through February 22.

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